Colombia: Living with Flooding in Barranquilla

Image by Patton

Image by Patton

Barranquilla in Colombia is the most important coastal city with a distinct characteristic: no rainwater drainage systems, so whenever it rains, the whole city floods with dangerous fast running rivers (called arroyos) replacing roads. On the following videos, taxis, cars and even buses float by on the streets as other citizens try to lend a helping hand to keep them from getting away.

The dangerous situations arising from the “arroyos”, are a result of bad city planning, no drainage systems, not enough clearance on the sides of creeks before building and the risky behaviour of those who try to brave the current.  Following, some videos of these impressive forces of nature that take control over the most important city of the Caribbean coast.

Blogger Patton, who visited Barranquilla recently, did live streaming of the water covering the streets after a light rain. It was Maaria, travelling with him who narrates on the video and notified us about it on twitter. Patton also uploaded other videos of the flooding streets as well as pictures, such as the one used on this post, on his flickr account, pointing out on the accompanying notes how people have adapted to the situation.

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Barranquilla native @allyfar also posted on twitter several pictures of the same storm right outside her house:

Este es el arroyo que pasa por la puerta de mi casa, con una ... on Twitpic

Un poco más de cerca, con árbol de por medio, se ve así el... on Twitpic

Este taxista decidió devolverse. Yo pregunto ¿para dónde? ... on Twitpic

Although the flooding looks manageable from the previous videos, keep in mind it was a light rain which caused these arroyos. The following video, made by Telekinesishd, a production company based in Barranquilla, shows the water  dragging away a full size pickup truck.

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This next documentary, made by the regional government of Barranquilla and uploaded on YouTube by shchalel, explains why the city lacks rainwater drainage systems: it was thought they wouldn´t work since the city lies below the level of the Magdalena River, the largest river in Colombia and also Barranquilla's neighbor. The arroyos have claimed human lives in the past, and the damage to property and to the environment is quite extensive, particularly in the poorer communities, usually built too close to the margins of creeks and small tributaries.

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The quantity of citizen videos reporting on the arroyos in Barranquilla is quite high. Almost all include a driver struggling to get their vehicle out of the arroyo's path. Some are lucky, others are dragged by the water and into the rivers. Some drivers are lucky and leave their car before its too late. The situation is made worse because it is just so common: drivers don't treat is a dangerous situation every time, they decide to risk it and hope for the best.

Sometimes the drivers ignore the danger and wait until it is too late to take their car into safety. This video by cafustar shows a taxi driver trying to pull into a parking garage, and as the water pulls the car away from the entrance, people start arriving to help pull it inside by brute force: at a time there are up to seven men, including the driver, fighting against the water. Finally, the arroyo is too strong and takes the taxi away.

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Trightxu gives additional information about the following video featuring yet another taxi driver attempting to drive through an arroyo with his wife and a baby in the car when they get swept away by the water and struck by another car also floating along. Luckily they survived:

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Here are even more videos of the arroyos, taken by ordinary citizens:

Reinaldo Pinilla (ReyPini):

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  • Brings back memories of being in Barranquilla late last year. I saw the same kind of thing as in the second video. Craziness, I tell ya.

  • […] of nature that take control over the most important city of the Caribbean coast.” – Source (more of the article and videos […]

  • ok

    At least is creates rivers and doesn’t flood like in miami


    This is a big problem of my love city Barranquilla. The problem is been worse when driver do not obey the rules for to across this arroyos. The authority must be more hard with drivers that infringe this law.The problem is of prevention by save lifes.

  • marusik

    Que barbaridad la fuerza de la naturaleza. Ahora veo porque los llaman arroyos. Porque literalmente arrollan…
    Pero mi Arrollo favorito sigue siendo Joe…

  • 11/01/09 Maui Hawaii USA

    En le ano 1955, estavamos viviendo en Barranquilla, pues como ninos, nos gustava la piscina en la terraza, que tenia por supuesto la salidad del agua a los quatro lados, y salian de las bocas de structuras de leones. Todo lo que teniamos que hacer era cerrar una, o dos de las salidas y la piscina se incrementaba. Cuando las abriamos el agua desaparecia como arroyos al primer piso. La teoria estaba funcionando y captada a esa edad. Buena suerte y consulten con los ingenieros civiles de la ciudad. Buena suerte.

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